The death of the hipster was a much chronicled moment in popular culture. I documented their evolution and demise for this paper in 2014. Vice magazine, the hipster demographic’s bible, ran its memorial piece in 2015. Since then, its appearance has waned to almost nothing. Good news for those who feel the word reached its apotheosis half a decade earlier – but bad news in that its cousin word, hip, has slipped through the net.
At Hip Chips, a crisps-and-dip bar in the beating heart of London’s Soho, “hip” has been chosen for two reasons. First, it rhymes with chip, and second, because the bar’s interior is very much from this hipster epoch, all stained-glass windows and soft noughties-style white subway tiles. Still, there are worse places to spend the afternoon. It is clean and the seating is comfy.
The snacks are laid out banquet-style, which leaves little room for mystery. There is a pit of crisps – mixed potatoes that come in a potpourri of shades from rare breeds such as Shetland black which, intriguingly, is registered by the Slow Food Foundation’s International Ark of Taste as a “forgotten food”. Then there are the dips. Some are savoury – bowls of katsu curry and baba ghanoush sit at the front, which make wacky sense – and some, the newer ones, are sweet – which is why I’m here. Crisps are seasoned with salt or cinnamon sugar, and piled generously into a box with your chosen dips. I try two dips, the smallest option, going for peanut butter and jelly because it is recommended, and banana mousse with rum caramel, because it is flavour of the month.
The crisps themselves are lovingly made, I will hand them that. Cut thickly and wonkily the length of the potato, they are fried, skin on, in rapeseed oil to an excellent crunch. As a standalone snack they work. Still, for £4.95, you need gloss to edge you towards a fiver, and this is where the sweet ones fail. The sugary coating is so sweet that if the crisps don’t break your teeth, the sugar might. They taste like elevated cereal. The PBJ dip adds an unprecedented level of sweetness; I manage to get through a handful. With the mousse, I manage just half of one (very big) crisp before I am defeated by the cloy.
The concept should work. We mainline chips with various sauces in pubs, and there is a bar here, too, although the booze is very much secondary. Plus, it flips the drinks-with-snacks power balance – no one has thought to silo off a bar food and sell it as the main attraction. But as a working whole, Hip Chips has too much bite and not enough vision. Nothing needs a hipster reinvention, not least crisps.